May 2007

Wine Talk- Viognier for Mother's Day

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

Each May, I forage the malls and gift shops, trying to find the perfect gift for my mother—a very particular woman. I usually go for the old standby and order a bouquet of flowers or buy perfume she will never wear. This year I took a different tack and bought her a nice bottle of Viognier.

Viognier is a grape quite unlike most other white varietals. First, it is profoundly aromatic with super-ripe scents of harvest fruit. Flavors of honey, apricot, citrus, ginger, lemongrass, and honeysuckle will tantalize the palate. The fruit is usually low in acid and then fermented in stainless steel to keep the aromatics and flavors intact.

Viognier was originally grown in the Rhone region of Condieu (Northern Rhone), but is also cultivated in the Rhone regions of Chateau Grillet and Cote-Rotie. The grape can now be found in the South of France, including Languedoc. In the mid-1980s, American vintners “discovered” the varietal, and it is now more widely planted in the U.S. than in France. Australia also grows Viognier and blends it with Shiraz (a traditional blending routine occurs in Cote-Rotie with Syrah).

With these powerful aromatics and tastes, food pairing can be very creative. A French Condrieu pairs perfectly with scallops or shrimp with prosciutto and a nice lemon beurre blanc. If enjoying Viognier from the south of France, summer greens with mild cheese would be appropriate, but stay away from heavy vinegar. In the U.S., Viognier tends to be a little less full-bodied and has a little more acidity, making it a fantastic choice with Asian and Thai cuisine—the spicier the better.

Making a selection for mom will depend on how much you want to spend. A bottle of French Condrieu starts around $35 with single vineyard selections well over $100. For example, Guigal offers a Condrieu as well as a Condrieu called La Dorianne which is more expensive, richer and fuller-bodied. In the U.S., Bridlewood has a very nice Viognier, approximately $16-$18, which is lighter in style, but has the rich fruit.

With the sweet smells of honeysuckle, and apricot, you can forgo the perfume and flowers for Mother’s Day. Instead, grab a bottle of Viognier, prepare dinner for Mom and let her relax on her day.

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